For someone who usually gets accused of driving like Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy, the BMW Ultimate Driving Experience Tour made me feel more like Vin Diesel in the Fast and Furious franchise.
The BMW Experience Tour takes you behind the wheel to test the 2020 BMW 340i. When I say test, I don’t mean we took the car on a high school driving course either. I’m talking about a full pedal to the metal experience, including professional driving instructors that encourage you to try and drift.
The Orange County Fair and Event Center hosted the BMW Experience from September 4-6, and that was just one stop. The tour traveled the US coast to coast from Seattle to Boston and everywhere in between. So a massive shout out to everyone at the BMW USA Marketing Team who made this event possible. My hands might or might not have been shaking after the experience, but I’m still grateful for a chance to drive a car for thrills. Although this was a press event, make no mistake – it’s also open to the public. As I drove like Speed Racer, you can too. The tour finishes in New York this November, but we can only hope BMW continues this ultimate event next year too.
Meeting our friend Jenn Tanaka from COAST magazine was the first treat of the day. If you haven’t read her experiences, including everything from food to concerts, I recommend checking her content out here. Jenn, her husband Daniel, and I listened to the necessary instructions about the sleek all-new, redesigned BMW 3 series. As we arrived at the course, our fantastic team of photographers began their closeups on the car we would soon drive. I’m pretty sure I even saw the BMW blush from all of the attention she was getting.
We got into the car with our professional driver and were excited to tour the course of cones. I looked down at my GoPro to change my settings, but before I could, I felt the full force of 0-60 MPH in 4.4 seconds. My head sunk into the headrest, and my hand bolted to the “oh-sh*t handle” in the car. I finally felt the fear in the passenger seat that my mother exaggerates every time my brother drives. Let’s say he drives like John Wick in a car chase. While pushing the car to its limit, I can see why BMW describes this car as “intelligent all-wheel drive.”
I have to admit; when I got into the driver’s seat, I was as careful as if it was my father’s car. It is evident that even though this was a sports vehicle, the comfort of the driver is in mind. The roominess of the front and the back seats makes it a car for everyone. The simplicity of the gear stick was unbelievable to the point that I wasn’t sure if I even put the car in drive correctly. Putting the car into drive, neutral, and park was as easy as pressing a button. Because that’s literally all it takes.
Starting at the beginning of the course, I was doing my best to remember all of the critical things the professional driver, Kevin, just told me. I kept the car at a solid 40 miles per hour, and I impressed myself until Kevin told me to speed up because he just saw an older woman passed us. In my determination to show Kevin that Danger was my middle name I brought up the speed and let the roar of the car’s TwinPower Turbo inline 4-cylinder do its magic. I’ve never been to Tokyo, but I got that car to drift around the cones like I was racing for money. Jenn even let out a gasp from the backseat that brought me back from seeing red, and I finished my lap into the pit of other drivers. I don’t have to get into detail on how Jenn and Daniel did – but let’s say they felt more comfortable behind the wheel of a car that wasn’t theirs! Oh boy, would that come back to haunt me.
I wasn’t expecting what came next. Now that we tested the car for ourselves, it was time to race everyone else in our group. The mission was clear – drive the fastest lap, and a half and winner gets their bragging rights. I thought about how Jenn and Daniel went Lighting McQueen on their first rounds, and I knew I had to be better. My competition went before me, and as they drove, I could hear skidding on both of their turns as if they had somehow gone to stunt driving school while I looked away. When the car pulled into the pit, and it was my turn, I put on my sunglasses and walked to the car in my best Michael bay slow-motion impression.
Pulling up to the starting line, I gripped the steering wheel and waited for Kevin to say go. Once I got a verbal green light, I stepped on the pedal with little worry about the $54,995 vehicle I was behind. I drove my best, I finished my lap, and I made my ancestors proud.
What do you think? Was it enough?
The simple answer is no; it was not. While Jenn and Daniel both had laps at under 35 seconds, I took my time at about 37 seconds. While not winning my group, I’m just thankful someone trusted me enough to drive their car at all. The BMW Ultimate Driving Tour did a great job at an immersive experience open to media and the public. Never having done something like this before, I recommend visiting the next time they’re in town with any model of their vast selection.
After the race, there was a collection of BMW’s waiting for a test drive on the Costa Mesa streets. My video team got their chance to get behind one of their own Hot Wheels and took one of the premium cars out for a spin and stopped for a beautiful photo shoot by a local park. Of course, all good things must come to an end, so we drove back to the lot to be with the rest of the marvelous models.
When bmwusa.com says, “Reach for more,” they’re not playing. The car pushes its limits for sure. The incredible interior balances the feel of a sports car mixed with a luxury vehicle. Even more so, the driver reaches for more as well. From the moment I began driving the car to the highest speed – I was in full control. The tires gripped the ground like something I have never felt. I’m not sure if it was the comfort of the seats or centripetal force, but the BMW autocross session made a casual car ride into an extreme event in 0-60 in 4.4 seconds, as promised.